|Manu Ginobili (left) gets a hug from Tim Duncan after helping spark the Spurs' win. (Ronald martinez/Getty Images)|
SAN ANTONIO - The San Antonio Spurs' Big Three congregated around the scorer's table during a timeout in the fourth quarter, not long before they put the game away for good.
Tim Duncan patted Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. They all laughed.
The NBA's defending champions were not going into an 0-3 hole against the New Orleans Hornets.
Parker and Ginobili scored 31 points each and Duncan added 16 points and 13 rebounds as the Spurs beat the Hornets, 110-99, in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals last night.
"We know that going 3-0 - it's never been done to come back like that," said Ginobili, who along with Parker consistently got to the rim. "Today, for us, it was a Game 7. We knew if we didn't win today, it was almost over. So we had a different approach.
"We played with more passion, more edge."
The Hornets still have a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is Sunday night in San Antonio.
Chris Paul, still almost unstoppable, led the Hornets with 35 points and nine assists. David West had 23 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, which was dominant in the first two games of the series.
With the Spurs' win, the home teams are 10-0 in the four conference semifinal series.
"You got to give them a lot of credit," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "I thought they played a lot more aggressive tonight. A lot more physical. Basically kind of took us right out of our game. I thought we lost our composure tonight a little bit, as well."
After trading leads all night, the Spurs led, 83-78, entering the fourth quarter.
Ginobili, the league's top sixth man, started for the first time this postseason and led a Spurs charge early in the final quarter. Left alone, he hit a wide-open three and was fouled by Bonzi Wells, who scrambled at him to guard the shot. Ginobili's free throw put San Antonio up, 87-82, and another three by Ginobili 38 seconds later made it 90-84.
New Orleans got within 90-88 before the Spurs took over, playing out the fourth quarter better than they have played all series.
"They made a lot more shots," Paul said.
"We got away from our defensive game plan somewhat. We didn't defend as well as we did the first two games."
San Antonio went on an 11-0 burst to take a 101-88 lead with 5:57 to play.
The Spurs couldn't stop Paul, but West missed three of four free throws and the Hornets got no closer than 10 points in the latter half of the quarter.
The Spurs outscored the Hornets, 27-21, in the fourth with Parker and Ginobili combining for 17 points.
"We knew that they were going to play better at home. We just didn't respond," West said.
Peja Stojakovic, the Hornets' 3-point sharpshooter, was held to 8 points on 2-of-7 shooting as he was guarded by San Antonio's Bruce Bowen.